BOOK | Blue Window | A Food Journey into the Past via Europe’s High Peaks and River Valleys I France & Italy (Mont Blanc | Monte Bianco)

When we started this project many years ago we always assumed it would only be a matter of time before someone undertook the task to record the recipes of the Alps, yet it never happened … until now.

Voyage gourmand dans les Alpes by Meredith Erickson has just been published and as soon as we get a copy we will write a review.

Into the Alps

Our trip along the Arve River Valley is not revealing what we want. C’est la vie! We must go deeper into the mountains. [snip]

Saint Gervais

St. Gervais to Chamonix (train) 45 minutes

Restaurant Le Monchu

We were delighted to discover in the heart of Chamonix a restaurant dedicated to traditional cuisine. This is Restaurant Le Monchu – ‘Spécialités Savoyardes’ – from diots de Savoie (the amazing smoked sausages of the region) to tartiflette (reblochon cheese with potatoes, bacon and onions) and dessert coupe Mont Blanc (vanilla ice cream with chestnut purée). But it is with cheese fondue that Le Monchu excel, featuring numerous adaptations of Savoyard fondue. [snip]

Chamonix is a picture-perfect alpine town, drawfed by the majesty of Mont Blanc, resplendent in everything associated with snow culture, and now an integral component in the structure that is ‘terroir des Haute-Savoie’. [snip]

Le Monchu

Chamonix to Aosta (bus) 112 minutes

Osteria da Nando


Osteria da Nando board featuring Bleu d’Aoste, Fontina, Fromadzo Valdotainian, Gressoney Toma

Aosta to Courmayeur Skyway (bus) 70 minutes

Skyway Monte Bianco


White Mountain Skyway

Torino Hut Restaurant


Torino Hut Restaurant

Courmayeur to Chamonix (bus) 66 minutes

RECIPE — ATTRIAUX pork meatballs

RECIPE — BEIGNETS / BUGNES sugar dusted deep-fried pastries



RECIPE — FARCEMENT potato loaf with bacon, dried fruit and spices

RECIPE — FARÇON puréed potatoes with fruit, eggs, herbs and spices

RECIPE — FICASSÉE DE CAÏON aromatic pork stew



RECIPE — PORMONIERS DE SAVOIE aromatic pork, chard, leek, sausages


RECIPE — R’ZULES savoury and sweet pastries


In Farcement We Trust

There has been one specific exception to our quest. The temptation of the farcement – the aromatic potato and prune cake of Haute Savoy – has followed us since we joined the Arve river valley at Bonneville and found ourselves here under the gaze of the majestic Mont Blanc.

Farcement is the embodiment of the local food culture from Cluses along to Sallanches-Combloux-Megève around to Saint-Gervais-les-Bains-La-Fayet and up into Argentière in the high Alps. At Combloux they celebrate this vaulted cake with a competition because the ingredients are not sacroscant, the arrangement is always variable, the flavour can move magnificently across the salty sweet range and the organoleptic quality is determined by the cooking temperature and the oven time.

Baked in a farcement mould that is generally round and fluted, it can be made in the style of the kugelhop with the hollow centre. It is eaten hot out of the oven and it is eaten cold, served with cured meats and sausages (diots and pormoniers), vegetables and salad. Grated potatoes, prunes, bacon, eggs, cream, flour and seasonings including nutmeg are the traditional essential ingredients. To these can be added dried pears, raisins and sultanas. Some farcement cakes can be piquant, with a little more spice than salt.

It is distinquished from its cousin – the farçon – by the thin bacon slices that can encase the entire cake. Now all we need is for someone to share their farcement and farçon secrets with us. [snip]

Chamonix to Vallorcine (train) 33 minutes

Farcement Brotherhood
Farcement Recipe

Rites of Passage

The Vallorcine train waits, like a bridesmaid without a bride. Fresh snow clings to the lower slopes of the forested mountains. Ice rivers flow from crystal peaks. The air is cold. The train is warm. We are waiting for the driver.

Suddenly there is movement.

Into the white. Past the river. Along the valley. Rising, slowly. The glint of a glacier in the distance. Townlands appear out of nowhere. Wooden chalets. A village on the hill. Above, the peaks are sharp against the sky. Ski resorts. Viaducts. Twisting roads. Fallen trees. Boulders.

These are exciting moments. This is the start of a long journey through the expanse of the Alps on short trains built for their endurance and strength. Into lands where the dialects change with the landscape and the cultures and traditions are etched into daily rites of passage.

On the faces of the people, with their colourful clothes, their irresistible homes and solid buildings, with cuisine that is as diverse as the products of the landscape, listening to those rustic dialects, warming to their genuine hospitality, people who know mountain and valley life.

This is the way into the winter wonderland that is Alpine Europe. Only the mountain goats know where the ancient paths go. Here there is beauty and diversity, nature unfolding through large windows in full colour.
And it is never still. You can never describe these high mountain peaks, divided valleys and sloping meadows because nothing remains the same.

This is what makes this journey a fabulous adventure. A slight change of perspective, a different view and the experience itself changes.

We are in the Trient Valley, crossing from France into Switzerland by the backdoor.

Travelling through Alpine Switzerland is nothing less than a remarkable journey that pays homage to past and present engineering feats, celebrates the dilemma of a modern utilitarian country and reveals beautiful ways of escape.

So we are going to get out at Salvan, have a fondue lunch and then make our way down to Martigny by foot.

SWe are going to get out at Salvan, have some lunch and then make our way down to Martigny by foot. First a reminder of the fondue they make in Haute Savoy, if only to acknowledge that this very Swiss dish comes from across the border, in Alpine France.

Mont Blanc Express


Travelling in the Alps by rail and road, on mountain and valley trains and buses, is an educational experience. The culture is rooted to the landscape. There is a strong feeling for place and a sense of belonging. The routes are ancient. When the railways arrived, new routes were carved out of the rock, tunnels were bored and platforms were raised to shorten the distance between alpine villages.

When skiing became a leisure (and sporting) activity, the carriers offered their services. Buses and trains were adapted to carry ski equipment, and so it has continued into the 21st century. After a while, the frequent alpine traveller notices that the names of the most famous towns and villages are synonymous with skiing, particularly alpine world cup events organised by the international skiing federation (FIS).

Chamonix and Val d’Isère in France
Adelboden, Crans-Montana, St Moritz and Wengen in Switzerland
Alta Badia, Cortina, Sestriere and Val Gardena in Italy
Kitzbühel, Lienz, St Anton and Schladming in Austria
Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany
Kranjska Gora and Maribor in Slovenia

Skiing is a tough sport, so it is no great surprise that the Alpine countries win more races than anyone else. Virtually every village on the upper slopes has a ski resort. Children learn early and are quick learners. By the time they reach their mid-20s they are ready to win races.

Traditional culture in the Alps is centred on food but it is also concerned with well-being, and skiing down steep slopes is more than just a sport, it is a way of life, etched into the faces of the people.

When you are young you ski, when you are old you hike.

Welcome to Europe’s pleasure dome.


Vallorcine to Salvan (train) 33 minutes

RECIPE — Fondue Savoyard Savoy fondue
RECIPE — La Tourte a l’Abondance Abondance pie
RECIPE — Le Berthoud cheese bakes
RECIPE — Le Sérac Tranche fried cheese slices with olive oil and shallots
RECIPE — Les Crozets de Savoie aromatic pasta squares
RECIPE — Tartiflette cheese and potato pie
RECIPE — Croziflette buckwheat pasta squares and cheese pie
RECIPE — Tuiles Dentelles crispy lace biscuits

Water of the Alps

Evian to Annemass (train) 38 minutes


Annemasse to Annecy (train) 57 minutes

Terroir des Alpes

We are in Annecy because we want to visit the Terroir des Alpes shop and talk to them about the short chain – producer to consumer in one link. Here they sell the produce from their farm – a range of homemade regional specialties. They also sell the products from local food artisans. Among these are the fantastic diots – smoked pork sausages and the amazing pormoniers – pork sausages made with chard, leek and herbs.


Terroirs des Alpes

Hotel Trésoms

Annecy is a cute little place — a small town with a big attitude, and best of all a sensibility toward sustainability. In the grounds of the Hotel Trésoms they have numerous hives housing almost a million bees. Sponsored by local businesses, the hives provide a window into the world of biodiversity. People take part in hive life and enjoy the fruits of the bees’ labour. The wider consequence of this biodiversity is a rich culinary tradition based on wild herbs and wild plants, to produce alpine milk that makes some of the best mountain cheeses in the world.

Hotel Trésoms

Annecy to Chambéry (train) 37-56 minutes

Re-Rendezvous with Rousseau

{story of Rousseau’s walk from Chambéry to Turin via the pass below Mont Cenis}

Chambéry to Albertville (train) 45-46 minutes

Beaufort Cheese, Crozets and Croziflette

Albertville to Bourg-Saint-Maurice (train) 62 minutes

Mont Cenis Pass

Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Susa (train / foot) 339-396 minutes / 29 hours

Stretching the Dough (Breadsticks Story)

Susa to Turin (train) 66 minutes

Chocolate and Coffee

Coffee Festival

Turin to Geneva via Milan (train) 321-350 minutes

RECIPE — Bavareisa chocolate coffee cream drink | Bicerin coffee and chocolate drink
RECIPE — Matafan / Matafaim savoury / sweet pancake
RECIPE — Mousse al Cioccolato chocolate mousse
RECIPE — Tartufi di Cioccolato chocolate truffles

These are edited draft versions of the content that will appear in the finished book.

Switzerland (Geneva) & France (Bonneville)
Switzerland (Pre-Alps)
Switzerland (Alps)
Italy (Piedmont)
Switzerland (Rhône Valley)
France & Italy (Mont Blanc | Monte Bianco)

This is a Fricot Indigenous book. In the future trips like these will be commonplace because in the future the world will be sustainable and only produce that is indigenous and local will feature in the food that is brought to the kiosk and to the table. If you want to eat what the Danish or the Turkish eat you will have to travel to Denmark and Turkey, and everywhere across the world where the food is authentic. And in places where food traditions once existed there will be immense satisfaction from the pleasure of eating local produce assembled from the knowledge of history. We are what we eat and we will eat what we know and not what someone tells us we shoud eat because we have lost the culinary skills of the ancients and acquired the habits of the machine and celebrity cultures. Everyone will be used to eating food that is made from local food produce and from artisanal food products. Home cooks and professional chefs will take pleasure in producing and re-producing dishes based on traditional recipes that are rooted in the people-place-produce mantra that will ensure that no one will have to suffer starvation because someone decided that what we need to eat is a commodity. Everyone deserves to eat the food that is simply produced, fresh and local, and not from distant lands.